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January 7, 2010
Is XMRV the Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Or Anything?
Last fall it was reported that a large proportion of patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome also showed positive for a little-understood retrovirus (XMRV). This created a lot of understandable excitement for sufferers of a conditions that (although often ill-defined) seems to have some puzzling biology buried in it somewhere.
Well, let the fighting begin: a new paper in PLoS One has challenged this correlation. Groups from Imperial College and King's College have failed to detect any XMRV in a similar patient population:
. . .Unlike the study of Lombardi et al., we have failed to detect XMRV or closely related MRV proviral DNA sequences in any sample from CFS cases. . .Based on our molecular data, we do not share the conviction that XMRV may be a contributory factor in the pathogenesis of CFS, at least in the U.K.
Interestingly, XMRV has also been reported in tissue from prostate cancer patients, but recent studies in Germany and Ireland failed to replicate these results. Could we be looking at a geographic coincidence, a retroviral infection that's found in North America but not in Europe, and one whose connection with these diseases is either complex or nonexistent?
Note: as per a comment on this post, the Whittemore Peterson Institute is firing back, claiming that their original work is valid and that the London study has many significant differences. PDF of their release here.
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